Urban Infill program addressing housing need in Kokomo

KOKOMO, Ind. – A lack of housing is a problem that many central Indiana communities are facing, and the City of Kokomo is no exception. There are many vacant lots across town that the city is hoping to utilize.

“What we’re doing here is taking some of the older lots within the city that have maybe been vacant for five or six seven years, and building new homes,” said Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight. This program, called "Urban Infill," is using mostly city owned vacant lots found in older downtown neighborhoods. The city then has a new home built on the site, and sells it at market rate.

"Older cities here in the Midwest are looking at revitalizing older parts of their city and reinvesting in the older parts, those walkable parts," Goodnight said. "Think of what's happened in Indianapolis and the fountain square area.”

The city also used to have to pay for upkeep on these lots, and by building in existing neighborhoods, they can save the city money while increasing their tax base.

"It's less expensive for taxpayers because the infrastructure is in place," Goodnight added. "The sidewalks, the streets, all those things... we're already going down those alleys and picking up trash so it's very inexpensive."

Goodnight says the city has seen recent growth and is now facing a housing shortage. Right now, six Urban Infill homes are under construction, but two have already been built and sold. The real estate agent who sold them says it didn’t take long.

"In Kokomo and across the country, the existing residential inventory is very low," said Owner of Wyman Group Real Estate firm Paul Wyman. "So when homes come on the market, they get a tremendous amount of activity because there's not a lot to pick from.”

Wyman says these new homes can also bring up property values in the old neighborhoods. The city has seen so much success with the program, they recently added more than $1 million to the program, and other cities are taking notice

"Other areas are really paying attention to what Kokomo is doing," said Executive Vice- President of the Realtors Association of Central Indiana  Amy Pate. "There are a lot of blank lots throughout many cities and this is a great idea for bringing new life to neighborhoods.”

The city is currently looking at other empty lots to build on in the future.